Cruise vacations are a great way to wind down from the stress of day-to-day life in this hectic world. The only driving necessary is to an from the port, after that the entire family can relax together without worrying about finding the right exit or avoiding the next road-work zone. There are several luxury options available on the Great Lakes that can make this type of cruise a reality for many families.

Lakes cruises can be short affairs that include dinner and trip around port, sometimes with fireworks viewing — at the appropriate times of year. Or, they can be several day to several week adventures. A trip from one end of the lakes to the other is almost as long as a trip from New York to the U.K., providing several weeks of relaxation time. The lakes are truly a massive wonder of nature that teem with wildlife and are lined with ports that range from small fishing villages to some of the largest and most metropolitan cities in the world.

Unlike cruise liners that carry passengers to faraway islands like Hawaii and Bermuda, the lakes liners that stop at Great Lakes ports like Mackinaw Island, are more likely to fall under the category of “small ship cruises.” These ships are much smaller than their ocean going cousins which are often compared to small cities, which comparison brings images of crowding and hurried life.

“Small ship cruise,” does not mean a cruise on a second-rate ship. The luxury vessels serving the Great Lakes are often as luxurious as the larger ocean going vessels, they are simply more compact. This means cruisers have a few less onboard shops and cafes to choose from, but are given a large increase in privacy, intimacy, and simple peace and quiet; what more can anyone ask from a vacation than a chance for peace and quiet?

The dining opportunities onboard Lakes liners are usually excellent as well. All of the dinner-cruise and the luxury-cruise providers pride themselves on offering first rate food and service. Some of the smaller operators even offer short excursions that are centered around wine and cheese tasting, an indication of the level of sophistication that the region can offer.

So, before making any plans for a cruise this year, consider staying in the mid-west United States. The opportunities for small ship cruises are numerous and can be among the most relaxing of all vacations, and these Great Lakes cruises have the added bonus of being close to home.